The Federal Trade Commission has excellent articles about how to find a lawyer when you need legal services:
Hiring a lawyer can be difficult for many reasons, including:
- Consumers (clients) fairly assume that all lawyers have a baseline of competency and skill because they went to law school, but it is not true. Attorney skill varies widely, and it is our view that skill relates more to training after law school than any other factor
- Word of mouth may be a good way to find a lawyer, but just because someone felt like they had a good experience with a particular attorney does not mean that attorney is specially skilled or a good fit for your case
- While there are legitimate ratings and rankings services, there are also many illegitimate, fake badges and awards designed to look like the real ones, and it can be difficult to determine which are valid and which are not
Almost every attorney’s website includes a list of achievements by the attorney. Some attorneys show their accomplishments from law school. Other attorneys post their involvement in volunteer organizations. Because all U.S. attorneys attended law school, listing awards and recognitions may allow attorneys to demonstrate their interest in a particular field or topic.
What’s Wrong With Most Attorney Ratings
Attorney ratings receive a great deal of criticism for several reasons:
- Many attorney recognitions are available for purchase. There is a cottage industry for vanity plaques and badges with no objective selection criteria. These awards look and sound very fancy, but they don’t mean anything, and they tend to dilute the value of the few legitimate rating agencies because they seem so similar
- Some rating services promote their recognitions as purely peer review, meaning that recognized attorneys were selected through a vote of other attorneys and sometimes judges. The idea is that professional peers have the most knowledge and insight about who among them is the best. The problem is that these ratings can be perceived as a popularity contest, meaning 1. attorneys who are not otherwise worthy may be selected because they are well-liked, and 2. attorneys who are excellent lawyers may not be selected because their competitors will not vote for them. The best peer review rating services have internal procedures and methodologies to try to mitigate these accusations and ensure that recognized attorneys are worthy of the recognition
- The most legitimate organizations are highly selective, so only a small percentage of practicing lawyers are recognized at any time. Lawyers who were not selected sometimes criticize all recognizing bodies as illegitimate out of jealousy or spite, contributing to the difficulty of distinguishing between the fake ratings and the real ones
Legitimate Attorney Ratings
There are at least three types of legitimate attorney ratings and recognitions:
1. Invitation-only colleges and academies. These organizations promote a specific type of legal work at a very high level. Some of these organizations have particular experience, education, and reference requirements, and they may also require attorneys to pass an examination or an interview to be admitted. For example, the American College of Trial Lawyers is an invitation-only organization reserved for only North America’s best trial lawyers. The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers comprises a narrow group of veteran appellate attorneys who meet extensive membership criteria. The International Academy of Family Lawyers is an invitation-only organization for family law attorneys with a substantial international component to their practice. Likewise, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has a demanding application, examination, and interview process which takes most of a year to complete
2. Board certification. Some states have board certification for specific areas of law, and a few national organizations, such as the National Board of Trial Advocacy, have processes for board certification. Board certification generally means the attorney has a minimum amount of experience (such as 5 or 10 years of practice), has passed a background check, and, most importantly, has passed a written test. Some states, including Oklahoma, do not have a specialization or board certification because board certification exposes the failure of law schools to prepare attorneys to practice law, and it threatens attorneys who hold themselves out as practitioners in a particular area of law but could not pass a background check or a written exam about that field. However, the United States Supreme Court has held that states cannot prevent attorneys from showing that they are board-certified if the board certification is genuine and legitimate
3. Some peer-review rating agencies. Each rating agency has a unique methodology for obtaining nominations and votes from other attorneys and judges. The methodologies are proprietary and private, making peer review ratings vulnerable to criticism since they are hard to differentiate from the fake ratings which may be purchased. Some of the most well-known, legitimate peer review ratings in the United States are Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers. Chambers is another legitimate, exclusive rating service that originated in the United Kingdom and is now global.
There is some crossover between the ratings. For example, a lawyer may be a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers or the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and listed in Best Lawyers, yet not Chambers. The odds are high that such a lawyer is very skilled and knowledgeable. Likewise, a lawyer may be listed in Chambers and Super Lawyers yet not be a Fellow of any Academy in their field — that lawyer is probably highly qualified.
Another way to view an attorney’s interests and quality is through the organizations they are involved in. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Trial Lawyers College, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy provide some of the best available skills training for trial lawyers, especially for trial lawyers who practice family law. An attorney actively involved in these organizations and attending their educational seminars will likely have more knowledge and skill than an attorney who does not.
Why List Our Awards and Recognitions?
The purpose of listing our accolades, recognitions, and involvement is to give the public some objective information about our knowledge, skill, and ability.
Aaron Bundy, Kathleen Egan, Michelle Thuillier, and Danya Bundy have all been recognized by Super Lawyers. The Best Lawyers in America have recognized Aaron and Danya Bundy. Aaron Bundy and Kathleen Egan are each Fellows of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Aaron is board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy for family law trials. He has been associated twice with the Oklahoma Bar Association’s “Earl Sneed Award” for providing excellent continuing legal education to other attorneys — once as a co-recipient in 2017 and once with a small group of family law section leaders. Aaron is also listed in Chambers’s prestigious High Net Worth guide, widely-regarded as one of the most select, exclusive lists an attorney can be included on.
Each of our attorneys is an involved member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. This means that when the attorney is not on trial or preparing for trial, the attorney is in training and professional development seminars to refine their advocacy skills further.
We are often hired as the second, third, or even fourth lawyer in cases that have languished for several reasons. We pick up the case, get it ready for trial, and try it. The comments we receive about the 180˚ difference in the client experience are directly related to our skills training and methodology. Our ratings and professional recognitions reflect our work. Our entire purpose is to provide the highest service and advocacy for each client.